Following the success of SilverFin, Charlie Higson released the second in a series of five Young Bond novels, Blood Fever, on January 5, 2006. Like its predecessor, Blood Fever was a popular choice for young readers, reaching the top spot on The Booksellers list of bestselling children's books in the UK in its second week of release and holding the spot for eleven weeks. Young Bond was not a fluke; Charlie Higson had proven that James Bond was so popular that people were willing to read stories about him when he was a child.
Blood Fever Background:
Higson’s sophomore effort is much easier to take seriously than SilverFin. Blood Fever still comes across as preteen reading, but much less loudly than its predecessor; after all, who can believe a 13 year-old boy would ever experience the things Bond does in Blood Fever? It really does have a feeling of maturity and depth to it, though. The relationships between characters are more complex and not perfectly linear. There are double crosses and things are not always as they seem. Zoltan, although a murderous pirate, possesses a benevolent side that comes out at times. His odd connection with Amy, the girl who deals him the blow that eventually kills him, is a perfect example of this benevolence and of how well relationships are developed in Blood Fever.
Review (By Derek Shiekhi)
Carnifex is another example of good development. While not necessarily a Fleming-grade villain, Carnifex does possess certain characteristics inherent of one of his creations: a unique, striking appearance; a fantastic, lavish headquarters; and a memorable idiosyncrasy. There’s even a torture scene. It may not be as graphic as the carpet beater sequence in Casino Royale, but the method is imaginative and original and is appropriately sadistic as Bond is psychologically tormented with the possibility that he may contract a debilitating, lifelong disease.
I particularly enjoyed the image of the Su Compoidori-masked rider running Mauro down with a dagger. It was very intense and horrifying. The deaths were grislier in Blood Fever, which gave it a certain grittiness and adult quality which didn’t go unappreciated. I was surprised at how much more I enjoyed this Young Bond adventure than the first one, but given its enjoyable complexity and its more adult nature, it’s obvious why I did.
Whereas SilverFin used the villain blueprint of a mad scientist, Blood Fever used that of the pirate for one of its many villains. It opens with the story of Zoltan the Magyar, who raids the yacht of the Goodenough family in the Mediterranean, killing the father and taking the young daughter,
Amy, and her tutor captive as well as a certain bronze Donatello statue, but not before Amy mortally wounds him.
What Happened (Spoiler Alert)
The first chapter is about “The Danger Society,” the secret club at Eton which James Bond raises hell with. Its members meet on rooftops and skulk about campus after curfew, planning and participating in the kind of adventures that boys are so fond of. One of the members and Bond’s friend, Mark Goodenough, is not in attendance after hearing the news involving his family. When one of the other boys is spotted on his way to the meeting, they all split up and scramble back to their rooms, trying not to get caught. Bond gets lost and while hanging by his fingers from a rooftop, he sees two mysterious men speaking Latin. He then sneaks into the building the men were talking in front of and sees a crate marked with a double M. One of the paintings in the room is of a man with stark white hair and deathly pale skin. Despite the chaos of the night, Bond is able to return to his room without getting in trouble.
A few days later, Mark Goodenough, in a tearful rage over the destruction of his family, steals Bond’s Bamford and Martin roadster. Bond and fellow Danger Society member Perry take off after him on foot. They collect him but are caught on their way back by Mr. Haight, an Eton teacher. After attending Haight’s lecture about Sardinian bandits, Bond discovers a bracelet with the double M on it. Haight takes it from Bond, saying he’ll return it to his colleague, Cooper-ffrench, who must have dropped it. On a field trip in Sardinia, Bond proceeds to ask Haight about the bracelet and claims that the markings are those of the “Millenaria,” a secret Italian society bent on restoring the former glory of the Roman Empire. While exploring the top of an ancient tower, Bond grows ill and almost falls over the edge. Instead of staying with his classmates, Bond goes to stay with his older cousin Victor and his uncle’s artist friend Poliponi in Capo d’Orso. Count Ugo Carnifex, an apparently wealthy mining industrialist, pays them a visit one day, in grand fashion, uniformed guards and all. Bond recognizes the count as the man in the painting back at the building in Eton.
Meanwhile, Amy Goodenough is being moved from one place to another as Zoltan’s captive. They meet with Carnifex who has been employing Zoltan’s services to gain valuable treasure and artwork.
While staying with Victor’s servant, Mauro, at his house, Bond is caught up in a Millenaria-conducted raid. He and Mauro take off towards Carnifex’s palazzo to warn Victor and Poliponi, who are there at Carnifex’s request. There, Bond meets Zoltan and forms a sort of alliance with the Magyar. In the valley of Sant’ Ugo, before a public boxing match between Bond and his newest archrival Tony Fitzpaine, Zoltan tells Bond the story of Ugo Carnifex. Zoltan reveals that Carnifex is not a count at all, but a sheepherder turned soldier who had to stand up to his waist in a septic tank overnight while fleeing the Austro-Hungarian army. As a result, he is compulsively clean and showers four times a day.
Later, Bond spies on a meeting of the Millenaria, headed by Carnifex. Upon further searching, Bond discovers Amy Goodenough, who is now being held captive by Carnifex. Bond then runs into his instructor, Peter Haight, who turns Bond into Carnifex, his employer and leader. He had drugged Bond on the field trip and was the reason why Bond became ill and almost fell off of the top of the tower. Carnifex decides to torture Bond after a failed interrogation by strapping him down and having mosquitoes feast on him, in hopes of them giving him malaria.
Fortunately, Bond is saved by a dark, wild girl with a knife named Vendetta, Mauro’s sister. Bond runs into Zoltan after a firefight in the cave where he was recuperating with Vendetta and her family. Zoltan tells Bond he plans to level Carnifex’s mountainside palazzo because Carnifex refuses to pay him. Zoltan executes his plan, drowning Carnifex in the process, but Bond is able to rescue Amy Goodenough in time. Zoltan then dies a sailor’s death by submitting his body to the waters of the sea. Ugo Carnifex’s sister, Jana, then swears revenge on Bond and his family, but she slips and falls into a bed of sea urchins while attempting to chase after Bond and Goodenough.